The Eminence archery team capped off a see-saw like season with an impressive 11th-place finish at the first annual Worlds Competition, writing the final chapter to an emotional year full of ups and downs.
The team’s head coach, Dewayne Douglas, passed away on Jan. 9, which left a hole in the young and inexperienced archery squad. Rusty Barrett filled the position Douglas left behind and helped lead the team to a successful run. The Warriors finished third at the Sixth Region tournament, 36th at the state tournament and 83rd at the National Archery in the Schools Program National Tournament in May to grab a qualifying spot for Worlds. In Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 10 at the season finale, the Warriors finished 11th with a school-record 2,915 points, led by 14 bow shooters that shot personal records against the best in the world.
At the first practice following the death of Douglas, Barrett said he told his shooters: “We don’t have time to change anything in the way Coach D did things, and he has left you with everything you need to succeed. My job is to prepare you for competition, and your job is to shoot.” Barrett said they did just that in Orlando with the best outing since the program was started. The practice rounds and actual competition was held at the Wide World of Sports Complex.
“When we stepped on that bus to leave for Orlando we were 83rd in the nation, and when we stepped off that bus when we got home we were 11th in the world,” an excited Barrett said. “That’s a huge accomplishment. There were more than 400 teams in the world that were eligible to compete and the ones that didn’t show up got beat.”
Eminence qualified for Worlds based on its performances during the 2008-09 school year. When the shooters first qualified, they did not think they would have the opportunity to participate due to financial reasons. Two weeks before the trip, though, everything was finalized and on Oct. 7 they departed for Florida.
Shooting in the high school coed division, the Warriors had a young team composed of six elementary-aged shooters, seven middle schoolers and five high schoolers. Out of the 18 shooters, 14 shot personal records to help lead Eminence to its best-ever score by 60 points. There were hundreds of schools that qualified for the competition but just 13 were able to raise the money needed to make the trip.
The shooters thought they finished ninth place when they loaded the bus to head back home, but later found out it was 11th because of registration problems. Going into the tournament, the team had the goal to finish in the top-20.
“We went down there thinking top 20 would be a good finish,” Barrett said. “Two weeks before we left, when I found out we were going for sure, I told the kids that my job is now done and now it’s up to them to do the rest. Coach D would have been so proud of all of them.”
At the Worlds, each shooter shot individually and the points from the top 12 from each team were added up to get the total team score. The team included elementary shooters Trent Hughes, Telsa Koza, Savannah Mertz, Mitchell Metten, Victoria Price and Cameron Sheilds, middle schoolers Courtney Barrett, Curtis Barrett, Gaillynn Carroll, Sky Gravitt, Ashley Harp, Mackenzie Pittman and Misty Vanlandingham, and high schoolers Todd Adams, Nathan Carroll, Cody Gilbert, Michael Gravitt and Mahala Smith. The squad had to juggle around its lineup when a few shooters could not make the trip. Courtney Barrett started shooting just six weeks earlier and took the place of Rachel Moore, while Todd Adams stepped in for Jacob Moore.
At high school archery competitions, each person shoots a practice round of five shots from 10 meters away from the target, then shoots three more rounds of five shots from the same spot which counts for points. The players then step back to 15 meters and repeat with the practice round and three scoring rounds. With each bow shooter getting 30 shots to score points, and 10 as the highest score per shot, there are 300 possible points each shooter can earn.
After the Worlds, the Eminence shooters came back to the resort they were staying in to relax in the pool. Barrett, who had already signed a contract to coach the squad this school year, was then thrown, fully clothed, into the pool to celebrate the 11th-place finish. It was worth it, he said.
“Coach D left me with the perfect foundation. These kids have left a message for the school, the board of education, their parents and also to myself that they are ready for any competition. They are ready to take this program a step up. They are serious, and Eminence archery is here to stay.”
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